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Archive for December 6th, 2015

Justice Dept. Plans to Investigate Chicago Police After Laquan McDonald Case

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The lies simply gush forth from the Chicago municipal government. With the release of video, the lies are now evident. I’ve marked in the story below statements that seem quite obvious lies. Monica Davey and Mitch Smith report in the NY Times:

The Justice Department plans to begin a far-ranging investigation into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department, part of the continuing fallout over a video released last month showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a person familiar with the case said Sunday.

The investigation, similar to those used to scrutinize troubled police departments in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, could be announced as early as this week.

The Justice Department has had longstanding concerns about the department. But the current scrutiny centers on a controversy that began with a two-paragraph statement a year ago from the Chicago Police Department about the death of a young black man who had been shot 16 times by the police.

“Near the intersection of 4100 S. Pulaski, uniformed officers confronted the armed offender who refused to comply with orders to drop the knife and continued to approach the officers,” said the statement, from Oct. 21, 2014. “As a result of this action, the officer discharged his weapon striking the offender.” [LIE – LG]

On the night of the shooting, a police union spokesman, Pat Camden, went further, announcing at the scene that Mr. McDonald was “a very serious threat to the officers and he leaves them no choice at that point but to defend themselves.” Mr. Camden said: “He was coming at the officer.” [LIE – LG]

For months in 2014 and 2015, as police shootings were drawing close scrutiny around the nation, that was all most Chicagoans knew about the death of Mr. McDonald. That changed dramatically last month when a county judge ordered that a police video be made public, and it showed Mr. McDonald seeming to try to jog or walk past officers, then veering at an angle away from them before being shot, again and again, even as he lay on the pavement.

The video outraged many. Yet along with anger over the shooting itself, there is an added element fueling frustration in Chicago: a lingering sense that the authorities, from the police department to City Hall, tried to keep the case out of the spotlight as long as possible. [Obviously true—indeed, Rahm Emanuel went to court in order to avoid releasing the video before the election. – LG]

“No person, no sane human being who’s lived in this city, no sane human being, looks at this situation and thinks there weren’t people who knew a lot and refused to divulge it,” said Mariame Kaba, a member of the Chicago-based activist group We Charge Genocide. “That, to me, is a cover-up.”

Critics have raised numerous questions.

Did Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election fight play a role in his administration’s decision this year to pay $5 million to Mr. McDonald’s family members even before they filed a lawsuit? [To keep them quiet. That’s obvious. – LG] Why did City Hall include a provision in the settlement to keep the video private at least temporarily? [To avoid Rahm Emanuel being defeated in the election, obviously – LG] And why did it take Anita Alvarez, the Cook County State’s Attorney, 13 months to charge the police officer involved in the shooting? [She went to great lengths to avoid charging the officer before the election, and in fact charged him only when the video forced her hand. – LG] She waited until just hours before the city was forced to reveal the video to charge the officer, Jason Van Dyke, with first-degree murder.

“People have a lot of questions, and I don’t think this is going away any time soon,” said the Rev. Marshall E. Hatch, who leads a West Side church. “It was almost surreal to think people thought this was a life that could be thrown away and walked over for apparent political advantage.”

The authorities in Chicago insist there was no cover-up. [But there was certainly a cover-up attempt. – LG]

“Any suggestion that politics played a role in this investigation is patently false,” Kelley Quinn, a spokeswoman for Mr. Emanuel, said. [Flat-out, bald-faced lie. – LG] Faced with growing criticism and demands for his resignation, Mr. Emanuel wrote an op-ed column in Chicago’s newspapers over the weekend, calling for broad changes at the police department but also laying out a defense of his own role. “What I strongly reject is the suggestion that the videotape of the McDonald shooting was withheld from the public because of the election,” Mr. Emanuel said. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it’s worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2015 at 3:55 pm

Cognitive Therapy for the Country

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Richard Friedman offers some interesting advice in the NY Times:

ARE you feeling anxious and afraid? Little wonder. Our world has been convulsed in the past three weeks by horrifying acts of terrorism and murder: first, Paris, then Planned Parenthood and, finally, the slaughter on Wednesday of 14 people at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., by a married couple who appear to have been inspired by Islamist extremists.

The message of these attacks is powerful: You are not safe anywhere.

That, after all, is the whole point of terrorism: to subvert our sense of the normal, to make us afraid of improbable dangers and invite us, in our fear, to overreact in ways that are destructive to our lifestyle and that will not make us any safer.

We really can’t help it. For better or worse, humans are hard-wired to detect unpredictable and novel events, like surprising rewards and terrifying punishments. They grab our attention and take precedence over the ordinary — and safe — aspects of our surroundings to which we’ve become habituated. We evolved this way over millions of years, in part, to help us identify and learn about new and valuable resources and dangers in our environment. Even if a particular danger is improbable, we can’t afford to ignore it.

But that doesn’t mean that we should check our brain at the door once we’ve been traumatized and let ourselves be ruled by our emotions.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what some of our presidential candidates have done in recent weeks. Donald J. Trump would deport all illegal immigrants, and Ben Carson would monitor mosques. Since a vast majority of immigrants and Muslims are neither terrorists nor criminals, these are laughably irrational proposals that would do nothing to diminish danger.

A better response, of course, would be to dial down our emotion, not make rash policy decisions and try to make a rational assessment of the actual threat that we face. But this is easier said than done.

The fact that Americans are far more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack is cold comfort for most people. Likewise, try telling someone who just read a story in the news about a plane crash killing hundreds of people that he or she is more likely to die on the way to the airport in a car than by leaving it in an airplane. Of course, it’s true, but it won’t make you feel safer.

As a psychiatrist, I talk with many patients who are stuck in a cycle of fear. You can see a similar phenomenon happening on the national level. And the same treatment is in order. It’s going to take more than sterile facts to restore our sense of security. In short, we need President Obama to be our therapist in chief and give us all a dose of cognitive therapy.

Cognitive therapy identifies mistaken and distorted thoughts that generate distress, and then challenges and corrects them. What the president needs to say to all Americans — over and over — is that although terrible, unpredictable things have happened, the country is not in peril. Such attacks are incapable of destroying us or coming close to bringing down Western civilization.

He has to help us all realize that when we are in the grip of so-called emergency emotion — extreme fear and anxiety — we privilege our feeling over our thinking. And our estimation of the danger we face is exaggerated by our fear.

Compared with Europe or the Middle East, we are relatively geographically isolated, with tight borders and an immense, albeit imperfect, national security system. To believe, in the wake of a terrorist attack, that this will become an everyday phenomenon is a distorted way of thinking — one that will make us unnecessarily fearful and anxious.

This is not to say that there is no danger. To the contrary, one has to acknowledge the horror of these attacks and the terrible uncertainty that there might be further attacks. But we have to find a way to live with this uncertainty and put it in perspective. There is no way to eradicate risk in a free society, even if we are willing to trade some of our liberty for safety. We delude ourselves to think otherwise.

Consider the response of the Norwegians to the murderous rampage of Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right extremist who, in 2011, massacred 77 people. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2015 at 3:09 pm

Canada looks at marijuana legalization

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A very interesting report by William Marsden in the Washington Post on Canada’s approach to marijuana legalization. From the report:

. . . Each year the federal government spends as much as 500 million Canadian dollars (roughly $375 million U.S.) on drug enforcement and prosecution, according to the auditor general. About 50 million Canadian dollars goes to raiding marijuana plantations. These figures do not include the money spent by provincial and municipal authorities.

Yet a large number of people still use cannabis. For about a decade now, studies have shown that past-year use among Canadians age 15 to 24 is the highest in the developed world, with a recent study putting the rate at 24.6 percent. For adults 25 and over the figure drops to 8 percent.

“Our system is badly, badly flawed,” said Eugene Oscapella, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and longtime advocate for legalization. “I keep asking myself a question that I have been asking for 30 years. Could we have done a worse job if we tried? Could we have found a way to create more dysfunction than we managed to create?”

The Canadian Center on Substance Abuse, a federally funded research organization, has already cautioned against rushing into legalization.

After a fact-finding mission to Colorado and Washington, their experts’ answer was to “go slow.”

“We have to be clear on what our goal is, why are we doing this,” said Rebecca Jesseman, a specialist in performance mechanisms at the center. “Are we looking to promote public health? Are we looking to reduce youth access? Are we looking to cut out the black market? What is the primary goal, because that will also help us shape regulations, monitor our progress towards that goal and monitor our success.”

She added that the center believes the dominant concern should be public health. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2015 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Government

An American take on bonsai

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Craftsmanship, an interesting on-line magazine, has an intriguing article by Nancy LeBrun on an American bonsai artist who studied (for five years) in Japan. From the article:

. . . Japanese bonsai generally draws from the country’s relatively calm, homogenous landscape with its limited number of species. Instead, Neil wants to see American bonsai embrace the energy and diversity of the American landscape. To do that, he wants bonsai artists to use “trees collected from the harsh conditions of America’s mountains, deserts, and coastlines.” In Neil’s opinion, this would give bonsai artists an opportunity—untapped thus far—to bring out “the unbridled” quality of American trees through “asymmetry and dynamic movement.” And that, Neil argues, would give bonsai a kind of wildness that “speaks to the freedom in American culture.” These trees may be small, but Neil thinks big.

Bonsai is part art, part craft, part horticulture, and part philosophy. It’s sometimes described as a collaboration between man and nature, but at its core, it is about imagining how a tree might grow in the wild, and interpreting that vision in miniature. Or, as Neil puts it, “Bonsai is supposed to take you to the place where that tree was growing without you having to actually go there.” While this may seem to be the most natural of credos, it’s anything but. The bonsai artists’ ultimate worth is measured by how well they can manipulate a tree—sometimes pushing it to its limits—to make a living, changing thing become something of ongoing artistic value. Neil may interpret those limits rather differently from standard bonsai practice, but his vision grew out of years closely studying classical Japanese technique.

. . . Neil’s fascination with bonsai began when he was 12, growing up in the Rocky Mountain town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He’d been taking Tai Kwan Do classes since he was eight, which led to many DVD viewings of the martial arts filmThe Karate Kid. One day, Neil became engrossed in a scene in which the karate master, Mr. Miyagi, is tending a small tree. Miyagi hands the pruning scissors to his student, and tells him to imagine the tree the way he would like it to be. Daniel, the student, is hesitant at first, but after taking a few tentative snips is clearly enthralled. So was Neil. He started reading about the trees and tried his hand at his first bonsai at 14 (he still has it, a Ponderosa pine).

As he studied up, reading magazines like Bonsai Today, Neil found an article on a famous Japanese bonsai master named Masahiko Kimura. In the time-honored world of Japanese bonsai, Kimura was an outlier; a radical who pushed his trees into dramatic shapes never seen before, with extreme, sculptural bends in the trunks and branches. To Neil, these forms were magical, and he resolved to become Kimura’s apprentice. . .

Continue reading. The whole article is interesting and includes some good photos.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2015 at 6:28 am

Posted in Art, Daily life

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